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My current photo-taking workflow

When describing something I’ve made, I usually try to avoid going on about whether I’ve made it on an iOS device or not.

Advertising the implement used in creation distracts and detracts from the creation itself, especially when said implement is as high-profile as an iOS device. For me, when I see a “made on iPhone” claim, I’m suddenly looking at a use case, and I’m distracted from enjoying the work as an artistic endeavor.

There are, of course, times and places to convey the gritty technical details of how a work is made, but I would argue that the description of the piece and possibly the artist’s profile are not those places.

I make no claim to being a photographer. But considering the number of photos that I take and share, I would rather those photos skew towards being a little better each time, whatever “better” may mean.I have recently been pondering (i.e., obsessing) over how I traverse the gap between the desire to take a photo and having a photo that I feel comfortable putting out into the world. I want to look at parts of that workflow that I can improve, either making them better, more efficient, or both.

But first, I need to look at how I currently do things. This requires talking about the iPhone since it is the only camera I currently own.

The iPhone in question is a black, you’re-holding-it-wrong iPhone 4.

The age of the phone is part of what’s prompting this little exploration of my process. Photo-taking is becoming more difficult almost daily at this point, as is doing pretty much anything else. Tellingly, the frustration with taking photos is the only issue that’s pushed me to start considering other options in gear.

The process

I’ll lay the current process out here, bare bones. I would point out that this isn’t necessarily a recommended process, but a balance of 1) what’s met my needs over the last few years, and 2) what my ancient iPhone 4 is actually capable of.

  1. Take photo
  2. Process photo
  3. Resize photo
  4. Publish photo (if needed)


For taking photos, I stick with the built-in camera app because the iPhone 4 gets crashy with 3rd party camera apps. I’ve tried VSCOcam, and it works sometimes, but at a great cost in load time. VSCOcam is still on my iPhone, but I never use it.

After the photo is taken, I want to process the image. For this, I use Process.

I use Process because I use Process. When I got this app a couple of years ago, it was the best (well, as far as I know the only) example of an app which would let you control individual process settings; it was not simply a filter app. Not to knock filter apps, but I wanted to control my processes piece by piece.

I wouldn’t recommend Process these days if you are not currently using it. It has always been rather crashy, and I think there may be many other options out there now. But for me, Process has done the job and it contains a number of saved processes that I’ve fine-tuned over the last two years. I haven’t been convinced to switch, even after trying other apps.

Reduce does exactly 3 things that I couldn’t find elsewhere, all of which are optional in the app:

  • resize the file
  • eliminate the Exif data from the file
  • add an adjustable watermark

It would be nice to be able to directly edit the Exif data in the app (as opposed to simply deleting), but as it is I am very happy with the app.

Reduce is also somewhat crashy for me. Although in fairness, I only came across Reduce after my iPhone 4 was starting to fossilize, so it may be fine on newer devices.

Neither Process nor Reduce destroy the original file, so in the end, I have 3 files for each published photo:

  1. The original
  2. The full-sized processed image
  3. The web-ready size-reduced image

I consider this a good thing: I can always go back if I need to.

I have recently printed a few of these iPhone photos (the full-sized processed images) to A4 size with good result. I’m not sure how large the photos can be printed before they start distorting, but at A4, I was surprised by how pleasing they look.For further examples, most images I’ve posted to this site were taken using this process, as were pretty much every photo I’ve posted to Facebook for the last year or two.

As a final side note, ‘Forward Motion’ was also shot on this same iPhone 4 by the talented Rowan O’Brien. While ‘Forward Motion’ is a video, it was shot as various long strings of still images, one by one.The process following image capture for ‘Forward Motion’ was naturally different, as the photos had to be turned into video. But having been through the process of making a video with Rowan based on a series of still photos helps inform me when considering future options for picture-taking gear.

And moving on to new gear is the next step. As my iPhone 4 slowly dies (the home button hasn’t worked in a year and the power button is starting to go), I feel confident that I maxed out my potential, such as it is, for taking images on an iPhone 4. Even if the phone were good as new, there are some types of shots that its camera just can’t handle.But the next step is for another time.
Getty Villa - Ash Ryan Beats

My current photo-taking workflow
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